The Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists ( NUJ ) FCT Correspondents’ Chapel, FCT, Jide Oyekunle said one of the key pillars of democracy is free and vibrant press, which served as a watchdog and mirror of the society but the media space in the country was becoming more toxic, shrinking and hostile thereby making it difficult for journalists to operate and carry out their statutory roles.
Oyekunle stated this while delivering his speech at the Training on Safety and Protection of Journalists and Workplace Compliance on Wednesday 30th August 2023.
He decried the intolerance posture of the government to criticisms and dissenting voices.
“The prevailing environment is unsafe, suffocating and dangerous not just for journalists and other media workers but for the sustenance of democracy itself.
“The role of the press is for social change and development of any democratic society and the safety of journalists is not negotiable.
“As mirror and watchdog of the society, we must strive and continue to uphold the ‘ public trust’ by reporting the truth all the time which is the fulcrum of the profession.
“Journalists and others working in the media sphere have faced unprecedented challenges in recent years as they were increasingly oppressed, arrested, silenced, threatened. From physical attacks, online attacks and bullying by security agents in the guise of using Cybercrime Act 2015 to undermine, frustrate and suppress press freedom.
“Nigeria has continued to fare badly in the Press Freedom Index . Nigeria was ranked SECOND WORST IN WEST AFRICA in the Press Freedom Violation therefore putting us in second place behind Ghana in the regional quarterly report on Freedom of Expression (FOE) jointly put together by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and Nigeria Union of Journalists between January–March 2022.
“Distinguished colleagues, we will continue to create awareness and educate more Nigerians on the need to know their rights and uphold the fundamental objectives of the directive principles of the state policy of the 1999 Constitution as amended
“We have continued to emphasize that journalism is not a crime, journalism is not an opposition , journalism is the oxygen of democracy and positive change and development of any democratic society.
“If democracy is about good governance, accountability and transparency then press freedom should not be denied, curtailed, restricted or taken away”Oyekunle stated.
Comrade Oyekunle therefore commended the organizers of the training,LightRay Media for putting the programme together for members of Chapel, with the view to enrich and validate their knowledge and skills on Safety and Protection of Journalists and Workplace Compliance.